At 10:15 am on Monday, I got a text from Zelda’s nanny, who we expected at around 11:30 am: She was sick, and she needed to stay home. I wanted to throw the phone across the room, but I just stared it, then looked at my daughter. “It’ll be fine,” I told myself. “Today will just be a disaster. Like every other day.”
The piece goes on to describe Ms. June’s day, but also her mindset as she deals with caring for her 15-month-old daughter:
I’m fortunate to have another wonderful, dependable person to care for Zelda when I need to work, and I’m fortunate to be able to spend entire days at a time with her whenever I want to. But.
…I wanted to work that day. I wanted to accomplish things. I wanted that time to myself. [Emphasis in original.]
As a stay-at-home-dad who also works from home, I am obviously sympathetic to Ms. June’s plight. She has a further advantage I don’t, which is to say, she has a nanny to help her out (though not on the day in question). At Chez Lyga, it’s just Papa and Leia. So when she says, “After three solid days of entertaining a fifteen-month-old, I wanted a change of pace: not to lounge around or to sleep, but to do other things, anything almost!” I get it.
At the end of five solid days of caring for a nearly-seven-month-old, I, too, am ready for a little break. But Saturday rolls around, and while my wife’s presence at home means I’m “off the clock,” as she likes to say, the fact of the matter is that rarely do I punch out for more an hour or so at a time. Yes, on a Saturday, I’ll vanish into the office for a little while to work, but when I hear Leia cry or fuss, I usually emerge and poke my head into the nursery to see if I can help.1
And now that the weather is nice and walks in the park are possible, my wife will often pack up the baby for a stroll on weekends. Daddy’s company is not required on these walks (I walk Leia plenty during the week!), so this is an opportunity for me “to do other things, anything almost!”
Yet, more often than not, I join Mama and Leia on those walks. Not because I have to. Not because my presence is required. But just…because.
Look, for the first couple of weeks when my wife went back to work, I was a wreck. I divided my time with Leia into “good days” and “bad days,” and believe me — almost every day was a bad day. To quote Ms. June: Every day was a disaster.
But they weren’t. I was the disaster. I was expecting a baby to be orderly, when babies are, in fact, agents of chaos.2 You don’t judge the day by the baby; you judge the day by your reaction to the baby.
Once my wife went back to work full-time, as opposed to her part-time transition period, everything clicked. I was now a full-time Dad, five days a week, no breaks. I couldn’t let Leia dictate how I felt each day.
What I came to realize is this: Every day is not a disaster. Every day is fine. Every day is just fine. Even the “bad” days are fine. Even on my daughter’s worst, most screamingist day, she laughs and giggles, and plays in her Go-Pod, and makes hilarious grunting noises as soon as she spies her bottle in Daddy’s hands.
And it’s fine.
Despite having a child who loves my attention, despite her antipathy toward a nap any longer than, say, half an hour, I’ve managed to work on a new novel (almost finished!), write some key scripts/workflows to make my life a little easier, assemble a video of my daughter’s first six months, and make dinner most nights. I’m a pretty lousy ’50’s housewife ’cause the house is always a mess, but I’ve decided not to care about that. Priorities!
I don’t consider any of that to be a disaster.
I agree with Ms. June when she writes “everyone needs their own space, even mothers and their babies, and when you unexpectedly don’t get it after days of the same things over and over, it can make you feel panicky.” One hundred percent true. I’m a creature of habit and routine, a devotee of order, and my kid is a live hand grenade tossed right at my meticulously scheduled life.
The other day, our washing machine began leaking water from somewhere underneath. A quick call to the super and we were told to stop using it; he would be over first thing Monday morning. Now, I knew exactly what would happen from the get-go. I knew he would show up late, look at it, determine he couldn’t fix it, and schedule its repair for a date in the future.
Sure enough, he showed up three hours later than promised, with not a single tool in his possession. Perfunctorily examined the machine. Proclaimed he would need to call “the guy who fixes these,” and that this would probably happen the next day.
Realize: Just a few months ago, Old Barry would have flown into a rage at almost any of these points. Three hours late? You’ll be greeted with a pissed off Barry at the door. Not prepared? Grr. Need to call someone else? You’ll be asked “Why the hell didn’t you just send that guy in the first place?”
My schedule — such as it is these days — was wrecked. I’d lingered at the house to wait for him, and now I was being told that the next day would be a wash, too. (The repair guy gives you a five-hour window. Yikes!) And let’s not forget the worst part: Four days at a minimum without a washing machine while minding an infant who loves nothing more than finding ways to poop around her diaper and into her clothes.
But, hey. What can you do? Shit happens. Literally, too, in this case. When the super arrived (did I mention three hours late?), I answered the door with my daughter in my arms. She gave him her big, winning smile, and he laughed and said hello to her. She giggled. He apologized for being late, and I shrugged and let him in.
It was a bad day and it was fine.
So, if the bad days are fine, and the average days are fine, well…
That means the good days, my friends, are absolutely spectacular.